We (my dearly beloved and I) celebrated our wedding anniversary at the weekend. If I tell you it’s 22 years, will you believe me? – it makes me feel soooo old. But then who’d believe my oldest is 17 – I hardly dare tell strangers in case they guess my age too, rather than mistaking me for a gorgeous 30-something.
Anyway, for this celebration I came up with a brainwave which I hope to repeat on future occasions. It was to invite some friends around for a dinner, themed on our recent holiday in Istria in Croatia, perhaps using up some gourmet goodies and wine we had brought back. We could relive the memories of our holiday, the restuarants we ate in and perhaps share some travel tales with friends.
Luckily, I had brought back a jar of truffle paste, some wine and olive oil from our recent holiday in Istria, the heart shaped province of Croatia that is closest to Italy. Here’s the menu I came up with;
Langoustines in a tomato sauce with salad, inspired by the seafood meal we ate in the Viking restaurant at Limski Channel. The Channel is a fjord-like inlet, with steeply wooded limestone sides and is famed for the clear water where oysters and mussels are farmed. We had a fantastic meal of oysters, mussels and a seafood platter, surrounded by other family groups enjoying the same.
I made a sauce in advance by frying some chopped shallots and garlic in butter, then adding some skinned and chopped fresh tomatoes, to make a light tomato sauce. When we were ready to eat, I tossed the whole fresh king prawns in the pan for a few minutes until they were cooked through, then served with a green salad of baby spinach and watercress.
For our second course from Croatia we ate fresh pasta with mushrooms and truffle paste, inspired by the pasta with truffle shavings I ate at Bastia, in Grožnjan, the artist’s hill town. When I visited the Zigante shop, devoted to truffle products I bought a small but potent jar of the truffle paste.
Again, I prepared the sauce in advance, frying sliced onions in butter until soft then adding sliced cap mushrooms until it was all cooked through. I removed most of the liquid and boiled it to concentrate it, then added it back with some double cream. At the last minute I added the jar of truffle paste and stirred through, serving on the freshly cooked tagliatelle.
For desert, I made a strudel with plums soaked in a Muscat wine I bought in the hill-town of Motovun – we didn’t actually try this in Croatia, but I know that strudel style pastries are fairly typical in Croatia. We drank it with the muscat to accompany. The wines in Istria were really good, but because they don’t really produce enough to export, you’ll rarely find them abroad. The wine we tried was made by one of the local wine and olive oil producers, Agrolaguna, whose olive groves surrounded our hotel at Plava Laguna, near Poreč.
I laid out sheets of filo pastry, brushing every so often with butter, then added the partially cooked stoned plum halves that I had baked in the oven with sugar and muscat. More sugar sprinkled over the plums, then roll the leaves of pastry over, then coat with sugar and butter on top. I baked it in a medium oven for around 30 mins.
What do you think of my idea of extending your holiday through a menu inspired by what you have enjoyed on holiday? – perhaps it’s something you already do. Salmon with dill followed by meatballs from Stockholm? Lamb slow cooked with olive oil and thyme after visiting Greece? From Bristol, perhaps my lemon roast chicken with all the trimmings for Sunday lunch?
Do let me know your holiday favourites.
P.S. I hope you noticed the efforts of my friend and dinner guest Sumi, who’s a professional food stylist (or did you think food always looked this good?)